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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Become an Entrepreneur (Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur)

How to Become an Entrepreneur (Advice from a Serial Entrepreneur)

The dream of entrepreneurship is really the American Dream. It’s all about being your own boss, having financial security, and creating something from nothing through hard work, dedication, and skill. It’s the rare person who hasn’t pondered the path of how to become an entrepreneur.

I certainly did, and from a young age. Granted that I come from a long line of entrepreneurial people: my great grandfather was a cattle trader and wildcatter. My grandfather and father were in the oil and gas industry and I have been involved in everything from oil and gas to manufacturing, real estate and skin care. In short, I have been a serial entrepreneur for the past 35 years. And in that time, I have both made and lost millions of dollars, managed hundreds of employees, and suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and other health issues.

I have learned lessons from some of the greatest minds in the business world, as well as from my own spectacular failures. But one thing I have never done is quit. And that is lesson one on how to become an entrepreneur.

What People Get Wrong About Entrepreneurship

When I talk to people about entrepreneurship and how to become an entrepreneur, there are some common misconceptions that always arise.

They are almost always based on stereotypes that have seeped into the culture over time. We see them in movies, television, and even from entrepreneurs themselves. But like all stereotypes, they are overgeneralizations that don’t allow us to see the true, in-depth picture of the entrepreneur. So, here are the most common myths I hear about entrepreneurs.

There are “Born” Entrepreneurs

It’s true that if you come from a long line of entrepreneurs (as I did), you are more likely to become one, but it’s not genetically inherited. It’s much more a function of having entrepreneurs as role models in your life. After all, colleges and universities have been teaching all kinds of people business skills and entrepreneurship for decades.

Now, that’s not to say that there are no “born into” advantages that can help with entrepreneurship. Money is a great example of this. If you were lucky enough to be born into a family with money, it will make entrepreneurship a much easier proposition. After all, funding is a major part of any start-up.

That being said, most entrepreneurs were not born into money and still became successful. More on how to do that later.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Have a Social Life

This one is pretty common and sometimes perpetuated by the entrepreneurs themselves. There can be a kind of a machismo attached to the image of a workaholic: someone who is single-minded and entirely focused to the exclusion of other things.

While entrepreneurship does take a lot of time, effort, and dedication, entrepreneurs, by necessity, need to be social creatures. No one rises to the top without a wide network of friends and acquaintances.

They Are Extreme Risk-Takers

There’s no getting around taking risks as an entrepreneur. However, successful entrepreneurs are experts at taking calculated risks — carefully exploring all the options as well as the potential ups and downs before making a decision.

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The person who is willing to risk it all on a roll of the dice isn’t going to be in business very long.

They Are Super Smart

In fact, only about 26% of entrepreneurs have a college degree[1]. While getting or having an education can’t (or shouldn’t) hurt, it is by no means a prerequisite for becoming a successful entrepreneur.

They Raise Money Through Bank Loans and Venture Capital Firms

My hat’s off to you if you can pull that one off, especially a bank loan. You’ll find that banks are more than willing to lend you money once you’ve become successful. But before then, you’re lucky to get a cup of coffee out of them.

No, most new entrepreneurs are raising funds either personally or through friends and family[2].

Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur

All you need is a great idea and some hard work. After all, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

Sorry, but that’s just not true.

There is a lot involved in launching a successful startup. Not everyone has the time, ability, or inclination to do it. The truth is, successful entrepreneurs do share some similar traits and habits. We’ll go over those next.

Common Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

How much is a great new idea worth? Well, that depends. If you’re Steve Jobs, it’s worth billions of dollars. If you’re Steve Jones, whose content working a nine to five job for 30 years, then it’s worth nothing.

The truth is that there are great ideas all around us all the time, but it’s the entrepreneur that gives the idea value.

So how do you know if you have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur? Here is a list of some common traits of successful entrepreneurs.

Having Passion

We hear this one a lot, but what does it really mean?

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For the entrepreneurs, passion is an overabundance of enthusiasm for their work. And we’re not talking about a passion for making money or getting rich. That should be a byproduct of passion.

The kind of passion we’re talking about is a complete belief in how the business, product, or service adds value to the consumer. People with this kind of passion are willing to do whatever it takes to see that vision through.

Having Tenacity

Let’s face it, rarely do human endeavors go exactly as planned. This is especially true in a start-up situation. No matter how good you are or how many times you’ve done it, things are going to come out of left field and smack you upside the head.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that it’s fun when something unexpected comes out of nowhere and turns your world upside down, but I will say that if you have the tenacity to work through the problem, it will serve as a lesson in resourcefulness for both you and your team.

Being Flexible

I’m putting this one right after tenacity because sometimes solutions aren’t a matter of pushing through a problem but going around it.

Back in the 1930s, having wallpaper was the “in” thing. The problem was that it literally was paper. When it got dirty, cleaning it with water and other household products quickly soaked and degraded the paper. The solution was to use a clay like substance to clean the wallpaper without getting it wet. Then in the 1950s, preschool children in Cincinnati started using this same clay to make Christmas decorations. Pretty soon, it was repackaged into Play-Doh[3].

The most successful entrepreneurs are flexible enough to change direction when they need to.

Having Confidence

As a startup entrepreneur, it’s extremely important that you exude confidence in your business, product/service, and especially in your own abilities. After all, you need to be inspiring to investors, employees, and customers. No one is inspired to invest, follow, or buy from someone who isn’t confident.

Arrogance, on the other hand, can be just as detrimental to your business as a lack of confidence. For investors, arrogance is a warning sign that you won’t listen to their input or advice. For employees, it can set up a rigid autocratic management style that stifles creativity. And for customers, it can signal a lack of appreciation for their business.

In short, confidence is a must, and arrogance is a no no.

Being a Motivated Self-Starter

I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who wasn’t a highly motivated self-starter. Now part of that comes from the passion they have for their business. They really enjoy what they do and can’t wait for Monday to roll around so that they can start again.

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But, another part of that is discipline. They tend to approach everything in life with discipline. Work is the obvious example, but even leisure activities are an exercise in discipline. For example, they promised their spouse that they would get some yard work done, but their kid has a game. Their answer is not to skip either one, it’s to schedule both activities into the day.

Being a Calculated Risk Taker

We talked a little bit about this earlier, and the word “calculated” is very important here. We’ve all heard the saying that “With great risk comes great reward.” But too many people confuse “great risk” with “foolish risk.”

A straightforward way to think about this is buying 100,000 lottery tickets. It certainly fits the criteria of a great reward coming from a great risk. But is it a smart (calculated) risk? If you’re intelligent enough to be reading this article, you know the answer.

So, here’s how an entrepreneur thinks about this situation. Instead of buying 100,000 lottery tickets, how about taking that money, use 50% as a down payment on a property that needs a little fix-up; and use the other half to fix it up and then sell it for a $50,000 profit? Now that is a calculated risk.

Practical Steps to Become an Entrepreneur

When counseling people on how to become an entrepreneur, I encourage them to take an honest assessment of themselves. This is always much harder than people think.

As humans, we are notoriously bad at self-assessment. We tend to overestimate our skills and abilities. That’s why almost everyone thinks that they are an above average driver[4].

Even so, if you are considering life as an entrepreneur, it’s important to be as honest as possible when doing these self-assessments. Once you have a clear idea of your strengths and weakness, you can use these tips to get started.

1. Develop Your Idea

It doesn’t have to be a totally unique or groundbreaking idea in order to be a successful one. The popular rideshare company Lyft was started three years after the introduction of Uber. They took on the business model of Uber and just tweaked it a little.

Just because there is competition in a field doesn’t mean that you can’t be very successful, too. But this is why developing your idea is so important.

Go ahead and use the business model of the most successful competitor but make it your own by identifying shortcomings and weaknesses that you can exploit for your own success.

2. Research, Research, Research

Research the industry and get to know the players, trade associations, and conventions. Research the products and services involved. It’s not uncommon that the most profitable part of a business isn’t the “main” product, but an ancillary add-on product.

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For example, it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to break even on the food and only make money on the drinks. The reason they can offer a plate full of food for $5.00 is really the $2.00 Coke or $5.00 glass of wine you order with it.

Finally, research the customer. There is literally no way you can understand your customer too much. Things like average age, sex, buying habits, interests, attitudes about health, wealth, social media, and status are all helpful in your targeting and marketing efforts.

3. Create a Formal Business Plan

This step is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. As a one or two-person show, you can probably get along fine without one. But once you start hiring employees, having a formal business plan is essential.

Unfortunately, if you don’t put in in place right away, by the time you need it, you’ll be too busy to create one. It’s always smart to do it up front.

4. Build Your Network

No one can build a successful business on their own. You’ll need investors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, as well as vendors, industry contacts, employees, and a whole host of others.

So, start attending trade shows and conventions, as well as joining trade association and online groups. These are all great networking resources for you.

5. Test Your Ideas

Start small. There’s no way you can predict every possible problem or issue that will arise. You’ll find it’s much easier to address these issues if they’re limited to a few test markets as opposed to a global rollout.

6. Turn Early Customers Into Fans

Another advantage of starting out on a small scale is that you can develop more personal relationships with customers. Make sure to provide a great experience for these first customers to build up the most effective advertising there is — word of mouth.

7. Raise Capital

At this point, you should have a proven business model with customers, cash flow, and a plan for expansion. You can now start to raise money through investors, venture capitalist, and banks.

8. Scale Your Business

Take the money raised and use it to scale the business for maximum returns for you, your employees, investors, and early backers.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, there has never been a better time in our history to become an entrepreneur. The old barriers to entry — access to large amounts of capital, expensive professional services like legal and accounting, and staffing issues — can all be overcome thanks to the internet. There are people all over offering these services as freelancers and at discounted rates.

If you truly have a good idea that you are committed to, then really the only thing stopping you from joining the ranks of entrepreneurs is you.

More Tips on How to Become an Entrepreneur

Featured photo credit: Humphrey Muleba via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on July 2, 2020

13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

In life, we encounter problems as we breathe. But it doesn’t get to us until we feel a major impact, and that’s when it becomes a source of concern, hurt, or sorrow.

Life problems, depending on their magnitude, can be clogs in the wheel of progress, and we may not be able to attain our full potential if we don’t learn to place our problems in the proper perspectives as suggested in Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last.

In this article, I have identified some common areas where you will most likely face problems as you make progress towards reaching your full life potential. I have also suggested practical approaches in handling, managing, and solving such problems.

1. Financial Crisis

We live in an uncertain world and a financial crisis may come at different stages of life. While you should always anticipate and prepare for a financial crisis, it may still catch you off guard or the magnitude may be far more than any preparation you have made over the years.

It could be that you lost your job or a major investment, got slammed with a lawsuit that threatens your savings, or have your livelihood be affected by a major disaster. So what do you do when you are in a financial mess?

Solution

To overcome a financial crisis, you will have to come to terms with the crisis. Acknowledge and accept the situation and begin recovery by setting your financial priorities right.

The next thing to do is to identify the cause of the crisis. If it’s due to a job loss, then your effort should be directed at getting a new job. If it is having multiple debts, look for ways to consolidate your debt so that your monthly debt repayment can be consolidated into one instead of being burdened with multiple payments.

You can also sell some of your assets to raise money to save the situation, or look for a better job if you are earning less at your current job. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends if you need to.

2. Health Crisis

Another major problem that might come up in your life is a health crisis. This is not far-fetched because our body systems work round-the-clock, even when we are sleeping. As a result of this, and if you don’t maintain routine health habits, health deterioration might begin to set in. Things might even get serious if you don’t attend to it early.

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Solution

When you are facing a major health crisis, the first thing to do is to consider lifestyle changes. This includes cutting down on junks, eating healthy diets, exercising, breathing fresh air, taking some sun, etc.

Apart from the lifestyle changes, you have to seek quality medical help and make sure you get different opinions about the state of your health so you can get the best affordable care.

3. Relationship, Marriage, and Family

There may not be anything as sweet as love and family life, but it can also be the source of pain for some. Human imperfections in a relationship can cause a major crisis in life. This has been a stumbling block to many on their path to fulfillment.

Solution

The best thing to do is to prevent relationship problems from happening, but if they do happen, you need to face reality and begin to take steps towards addressing them. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open as this can help in strengthening your struggling relationship. Talk about the challenges with your partner and look for common grounds.

You can also arrange to see a counselor together or read books that address the specific challenges you are facing. The worst thing you can do is to end a relationship and that’s only when you have exhausted all other options.

4. Workplace

The workplace is supposed to be a place where we dutifully render the services for which we’ve been hired.

However, it is not impossible to face animosity at work—dealing with toxic people who would rather not see any good in what you do. It might be caused by differences in background, attitudes, and unhealthy competition that can result in personal conflicts. This can create undue stress and reduce productivity.

Solution

Be as professional as possible when dealing with toxic people. Be kind and show understanding, and try to avoid personal confrontation.

You can even try to reach out to the persons and invite them over for a coffee and get to understand their worldview. This can help you to connect with them at their level so that you can avoid unnecessary stress for yourself.

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5. Career Pressure

In your quest to become more successful, you will likely encounter work-related pressure. Such can come when trying to stabilize your career or climb the career ladder. It can also come as a result of overworking and having no life. Career pressure is one of the most common life problems.

Sometimes, it may be that the promotion you are working hard to get is not coming or positions you are qualified for are being offered to others. The pressure can get more intense when you find that most of your colleagues are moving ahead of you.

Solution

Check to find if you have personal or attitudinal problems. Some attitudinal problems can put you at a disadvantaged end. It may be poor communication, poor personal grooming, or poor relationship and networking skills. If it is any of these problems, then work on improving yourself in those areas.

You can also observe your colleagues who are succeeding and take note of what they are doing differently.

6. Unfair Treatment

We are in a world where some people often think they have some privileges over others and may want to exercise this thinking and treat others unfairly. If you find yourself in an environment where you are being oppressed or treated badly because of your race, gender, or current status, this can make you feel really bad and can also affect your psyche and productivity.

Solution

There is the temptation to decry your treatment, defend yourself, and demand a change immediately, but you should really wait for the right opportunity to do that.

When the time is right, reach out directly to the person or authority involved, and make it private. Meanwhile, you should be factual about the instances of your unfair treatments. Don’t just say it that you are being treated badly; give several undeniable instances.

Once you’ve made your grievances known politely, keep being you. If things don’t change, you can cocoon yourself in that environment. If you have an option to leave, you can do so as well.

7. Emptiness and Boredom

When you are in a rut, everything becomes normal, dull, unproductive, and yet difficult to change. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and boredom. This may not seem like a serious life problem, but it can have a great impact on your life.

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Solution

To overcome boredom and emptiness, break out of your routines, and deliberately create a new experience for yourself. If you can’t leave your job to find a new one, start doing other things that reflect your true passion. Sometimes, the things that give us the needed drive in life are not our day jobs.

8. Confusion

Confusion is described as a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with their usual level of clarity.[1]. It is inherent in forgetfulness and lack of concentration.

It can be caused by different things including medical and environmental factors. It can also be due to the experience of a loss, a heartbreak, or abuse.

Solution

Don’t allow the situation to deteriorate into something more serious. Try to snap out of whatever experiences you have had that is causing confusion. Seek medical help if necessary or talk to a psychologist.

9. Friendship Problems

We need friends in our lives to rob minds and hang out together and even help us when we run into trouble. But many people have found themselves in serious trouble as a result of the company of friends they keep. They’ve experienced jealousy, backstabbing, and betrayal of trust. Some friends have even used the information freely provided in times of friendship to betray trust.

Solution

Don’t open up on everything to friends. Keep some information only to yourself. If you notice that a friend is working against you, confront them with the truth. Limit your interaction with them or get rid of such toxic friends completely.

10. Haunting Past

We all have pasts, and we might have done some crazy stuff in the past before we begin to live a more civilized and decent life. But sometimes, the past comes back haunting. It’s even worse when life problems of the past haunt you back and become problems of the present.

It may be that what you have done is now striking your conscience, keeping you awake at night. Or someone who knows about it is trying to use it against you, and it is standing in the way of your progress.

Solution

Be true to yourself and forgive yourself. If it is an issue with another person, you can reach out to the person to settle with them. If it is a secret that is now being leaked out, own up to it, take responsibility, and move on.

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11. Safety and Security

You may find yourself in an environment where there have been unexplained murder, gun violence, police brutality, insurgencies, and other life-threatening situations. This can make you feel like you might be the next victim. What should you do in this situation?

Solution

Ensure that you watch where you go and keep your home secure. You can also get involved in a neighborhood community watch to collectively find solutions to the threat. If the situation persists, you can move to a more secure location.

12. Failure

Failure can bring disappointment and can also slow the pace of progress. But failure is also part of life, and we have to learn to deal with it. But what do you do when an experience of failure weighs you down?

Solution

You can read a book or biography to get inspired by other people’s success stories.

13. Grief

No one loves to grief but we can’t totally shield ourselves from it. The loss of a loved one is painful and, if not properly handled, can lead to an emotional breakdown.

Solution

Take your time to express emotions. You can also pen an emotional tribute to the individual. Writing can help us bring out the feelings that cannot be expressed otherwise, and it helps us breathe a sigh of relief.

You can also cope with your grief by helping them to realize some of their unfulfilled dreams or do something in their honor. Lastly, while you think about your loss, you will still have to move on, accepting the fact that life is transient.

The Bottom Line

Problems are what make life worth living. They help us adapt to become tougher as we adapt to different situations. Always remember that whatever problem you are facing has a solution or, at least, a manageable approach.

Therefore, never allow your challenges to stop you from fulfilling your true potentials in life.

More Tips to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: Danka & Peter via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medicinet: Confusion: Symptoms & Signs

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